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World's First Green Tunnel-Boring Machine Rolls off Production Line in China

Updated: May 23, 2023

An environmentally friendly tunnel boring machine (TBM), "CREC 1237", finished its factory acceptance test (FAT) on May 10 in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province. It was developed by China Railway Engineering Equipment Group Co., Ltd. (CREG), a subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited (CREC).

The first TBM designed with green concepts in the world, "CREC 1237" will be exported for the construction of a high-speed railway tunnel on the island of Sicily, Italy, according to CREG.


An environmentally friendly tunnel-boring machine, "CREC 1237", finished its FAT on May 10 in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province. [Photo provided by CREG]

The TBM's green features are reflected on its energy saving and low-carbon technologies.

According to CREG, through the automatic intelligent management of various systems during tunnel boring, the TBM achieves adaptive adjustments, matches with the geological strata, and autonomously finds the optimal balance between excavation efficiency and energy consumption, thus reaching green and energy-saving goals. It is equipped with technologies such as continuous excavation and rapid mode switching, greatly promoting excavation efficiency and emission reduction.

With a simple push of a button on the control panel, the TBM's systems sequentially and automatically achieve an ideal thrust striking a balance between tool wear and excavation efficiency. In the past, TBM operators had to continuously experiment relying on their hands and experience to strike the balance.

An intelligent energy-saving management system for the power equipment is also installed on the TBM. More than 100 motors installed used to consume significant energy by remaining operational throughout the working process. Through technological breakthroughs, the TBM's system can now automatically recognize environmental requirements and activate motors as needed, effectively reducing energy consumption.

Additionally, through technical advancements and component optimization, the power utilization rate of this new TBM now reaches an impressive 95 to 97 percent, while that of conventional TBMs typically reached around 90 percent.

In terms of dismantling and assembly, the TBM's design incorporates a modular approach. For instance, the Backup system, which extends over 100 meters, is divided into sections for easy transportation. By simplifying the assembly process, both workshop and on-site installation time are significantly reduced.

Since the purchase of two open-type TBMs from Germany's Herrenknecht in 1997, China has continuously improved and developed its domestically manufactured models.

In 2008, the first domestically developed and patented composite earth pressure balance tunnel boring machine was launched. In 2012, “CREC 50” was exported to Malaysia, laying a solid foundation for the global marketing of Chinese tunnel boring technology.

And now, the export of the world's first "green" TBM, further demonstrates the advancements of China's tunnel boring industry.

Currently, CREC has exported its tunnel boring machines to 32 countries and regions, including Italy, France, Singapore, Algeria, Australia, and Brazil. Cumulative overseas orders have reached a historic milestone of over 100 units, and its market share of tunnel boring machine overseas is approximately 25 percent.



(Executive editor: Wang Ruoting)